PART from the fact that man cannot live on potatoes and -cabbage alone, an unusual vegetable makes a very welcome change. The Chinese artichoke brings a new flavour to the table. It is a vegetable which is very easily grown, and occupies but little ground.
The plant, which bears no resemblance whatever to either the globe artichoke or the Jerusalem artichoke, grows about a foot high, and underground tubers form the crop. The tubers vary in length from 1 in. to 3 in., are spirally twisted, and about 1 in. thick at the widest part – the centre.
A sunny position is needed; the ground should be dug not less than a foot deep, and it must be well drained. Yield will be greater if the position was manured for a previous crop.
There is only one variety: the Chinese Artichoke, Stachys tu-berifera. Five pounds of tubers will plant a 30-ft. row.
Ready for Use. Tubers are ready for digging in October, and available until February.
When and How to Plant. In March or April, tubers (obtainable from seedsmen) should be planted 3 in. deep and 9 in. apart, in a drill made with the draw hoe. If more than one row is to be planted, it is advisable to space the drills 12 in. apart.
Watering, Hoeing. Plenty of water is required, in July and August especially. Weeds should be hoed up as they appear.
Lifting, Storing. If the ground is light in nature the tubers will pass the winter quite safely where they are for lifting as required; dry bracken or straw placed on the surface above them will prevent it becoming too hard in severe frosty weather for the fork to penetrate. Or the crop may be dug up in November and stored under a layer of sifted ashes under cover.
Preparing for Table. Wash and peel the tubers before cooking. Food value is good. Flavour is somewhat similar to diat of the Jerusalem artichoke.
The globe artichoke is a luxury plant for the home garden where space is not otherwise in demand; in a small area it is out of place and not profitable. Globe artichoke is a perennial (comes up every year), makes a bushy clump 5 ft. high, has coarse silvery leaves 3 ft. long when fully grown and looks rather like a vigorous thistle – for to that tribe it belongs.
Parts that are cooked and eaten are the globe-shaped, half-grown flower heads and their fleshy bases; these are 4 in. to 5 in. in diameter, bluish-green in colour. Also the young growths, when blanched as explained in the next column.
Full exposure to sun, and deeply dug and manured ground, are two essentials. If there is no manure for digging in, bury plenty of rotted leaves and similar vegetable refuse a foot or more deep.
Variety Green Globe is excellent for ordinary purposes.
Ready for Use. The unopened flower heads, or globes, are ready for cutting in June. Production continues until October.
When and How to Plant.
The purchase of young plants is preferable to sowing seed; it saves time and only a few are likely to be required. Plant in late March or early April, 3 ft. apart; if more than one row, space these 4 ft. apart. In dry weather plenty of water will need to be given.
Cutting for Use.
Remove the flower heads, each with a portion of stem, before they begin to open. They would expand fully during August, if allowed to, and would be useless. Continue to take the globes as these attain sufficient size.
Preparing for Table.
Cut off a small portion of the top of each, cut away the piece of stalk, remove soiled or broken outer parts, and wash in cold water, before cooking. Globe artichokes come well up the food scale and are particularly easv to digest.
Production of Chards.
Plants remain profitable for not more than four years. But before they are discarded they can be put to one further use – the production of chards, or blanched young growths, which are welcome in the kitchen department. Procedure is as follows:
When the plant has surrendered its last good globe, some time during summer, remove the flower stems completely and cut back the leaves to within a few inches of the ground. New growth will quickly appear, and when this has reached the height of about 2 ft. wrap it round with clean, dry hay or straw, or thick paper, so that all light is excluded. Tie this material securely, and mound up sifted ashes or dry soil round it. The new shoots will be sufficiently blanched in the course of about six weeks; ashes and wrapping are then removed and the whitened chards are cut.
The worn-out plant can then do no more. Its place should be filled by a young one.
Increasing the Stock.
Side-growths, or suckers, are produced freely from below ground, and two or three may be taken from a plant that is in bearing without harm to it. Soil is scraped back with the trowel from around the base of the suckers in April, to enable these to be knifed away from the parent plant, each complete with a piece of the old root.
These should then be planted elsewhere, 3 ft. apart and at their original depth, in good soil kept moist as required; the strongest might produce a few small globes the first year. Small suckers taken later than April would be better planted singly in 5-in. pots and wintered in a cold frame, for planting out die following spring.
Plants should be cut down, in November, and banked round with sifted ashes. If hard frost threatens, dry bracken or leaves should be spread over the tops, this to be removed during fine weather. In March the ashes, having served their protective purpose, should be taken away, and the soil around hoed or forked.
The most important of the three kinds of artichoke, the Jerusalem artichoke is worthy of a place on every allotment and in every garden. If the potato vanished from the earth, the Jerusalem artichoke would take its place.
The plant grows as high as 10 ft. in three or four months and resembles a tall sunflower plant; as it should, for it belongs to that tribe. Its worth, however, is in the underground tubers, which are produced most generously – up to a bushel per plant in really good soil. These have the appearance of much-bumped and dented potatoes.
It is a general utility plant. It will grow in the open or in shade; in the heaviest soil (so long as this does not lie wet) and in the lightest and driest. A hungry, undug stretch of the vegetable plot will satisfy it. It will hold its own in the weediest patch. But to give biggest and most tubers it needs the encouragement of well-dug soil; rough leaf-mould mixed in helps good results.
Varieties: Purple, or Red- skinned, and White, or Silver- skinned. The white is superior in flavour to the older purple variety. 7 – –
Four pounds of tubers will plant a 30-ft. row.
Ready for Use.
Tubers are fit to dig in October or early November, and are available up to March.
When and How to Plant.
February and March are the planting months. Small tubers, or large ones cut into three (each division to have an eye), are planted, without the necessity of previous sprouting. They need to be a foot apart; rows to be 3 ft. apart. Put down the garden line as a guide for draw hoe or spade in making a planting drill, this to be deep enough to allow the tubers placed therein to be covered with 4 in. of soil.
If the ground is heavy, make separate planting holes with the spade (instead of a continuous drill) and place the tubers just under the surface, stalk end uppermost. Unlike potatoes, the plants do not need earthing up.
As a Windbreak.
The thick strong stems and dense growth of the Jerusalem artichoke form an efficient barrier against cutting winds, and a line of tubers may be planted for this purpose. But if the tall tops are exposed to gales they will need some support; thick string, or wire, stretched between end stakes will take the strain.
A line of these plants will also provide welcome shade in summer for lettuce, radish and other salad plants.
The best plan is to leave the tubers in the ground, after cutting down the stems in November, and dig them up as wanted. Dry straw or bracken spread on top will ensure easy digging when a few tubers are to be forked up in frosty weather. The alternative is to lift the entire crop, in November, and store in a dry shed or cellar. Sifted ashes or loose soil thrown over the heap will keep them safe.
Clear the Ground.
The last of the tubers left to winter in the ground should be got out in February and placed in store. If Jerusalem artichokes are again to occupy the same line the cleared ground will need deep digging and whatever vegetable refuse can be tucked into it. Leaving old tubers year after year in the same bit of undug ground results in a jungle of tops and a mass of undersized tubers for the crop.
A sufficient number of the best should be set aside each year for the February to March planting.
Preparing for Table.
Wash, or scrub, and peel tubers before cooking. Food value is considerable.